Last year was monumental for our shotgun reviewers. There were several new ranges from almost every brand in the market. So as we enter 2017, we felt it would be the ideal moment to look back on the last 12 months and figure out the best guns of 2016.
Guns must be appreciated within the context of their price band, so rather than rank every shotgun we’ve reviewed this year, we felt it more respectful to pick our favourite 10 and let you decide whether or not it would suit you.
Perazzi High Tech S
When Perazzi introduced the High Tech Trap in 2015, a dedicated Sporter was a natural progression that has since captured the imagination of the Sporting community. A heavier, wider action, longer forcing cones and a rib that gets wider as it reaches the muzzle are all brand new concepts to the Italian manufacturer. You can get the Sporter with a fixed trigger action, or the removable trigger option that made Perazzi famous with the MX8. There is also a strong, contemporary decoration on the shotgun, in comparison to the delicate scrolls on the various MX series.
While Vic Harker might not have been able to put his finger on why the gun is so successful, he urged readers to try it last July: “I can only suggest you take the opportunity to shoot the High Tech, and if you had thought the extra weight was of little significance you might think again. This gun’s specification has been carefully thought out and its qualities, though difficult to define, are something you will quickly come to appreciate.”
Perugini & Visini Suprema
Perugini & Visini visited the British Shooting Show in 2015 to experiment selling its product into the UK market after several years of not doing so, and while they didn’t sell any guns that weekend, they met someone who would be able to act as an ambassador for the brand – John Jeffries. The coach and gunsmith has imported Perazzi shotguns via RUAG for years, but offering custom gun fitting and a novel rib concept.
While most shotgun ribs narrow as the barrel reaches the muzzle, John believes his Reverse Sloping Rib gives you better acuity for the target and makes shooting more accurate. The action of the Suprema is manufactured by great gunmakers – once partners of Daniele Perazzi – and has all the workings of a fantastic shotgun, while John Jeffries adds a competition element to it that cannot be overlooked. Vic Harker said: “I shot this Perugini & Visini at two shooting grounds: I hit almost everything at one but then decided I would take this gun elsewhere to provide a sterner test. At the second venue I didn’t hit everything but still broke more than enough targets to remind me again how much easier it is to hit targets at range with a long-barrelled gun.”
Krieghoff K-80 Parcours
Krieghoff stands alone in the world of gunmaking. While most guns traditionally copy a hybrid of Boss, Beretta or Browning designs, Krieghoff has its own design arrangement in the moving breech shroud that locks the gun above the explosion of the cartridge. In addition to this, a set of free-floating barrels have made the K-80 an notable option that has developed a dedicated following.
In recent years, Krieghoff has made its barrels thinner, lighter and added side ribs onto the gun, to remove the gap between the over-and-under barrels. This has led to the introduction of the Krieghoff Parcours, and while it is appreciated as a game gun, some of the best clay shooters have benefited from the gun’s new profile. But its success goes further than that, as Vic Harker said: “The trigger mechanism… is unconventional – it has few rivals for function and reliability. Powered by a strong coil spring the barrel selection pushes hard on the rear of the sears and the trigger has absolutely no free play.”
Zoli Z-Sport High Rib
The Zoli is another Italian shotgun that has made great in-roads to the British market. The gun is well made with nods to Perazzi and the traditional Brescia guild of shotgun manufacturers. But the Z-Sport High Rib has attracted the eyes of many. There has definitely been a trend forming of late with more high-ribbed shotguns being used for Sporting, and Zoli has jumped on that bandwagon with success. As ever the barrels are made extremely well, bored to 18.6mm, and the Boss-locking system works as well as ever.
Richard Atkins was impressed when he reviewed it last year: “Boss incorporates a unique and hugely complex system whereby carefully profiled raised bosses on the inside of the receiver walls mate with matching recesses machined into the sides of the breech monobloc. However, Zoli dispenses with these complexities and replaces them with a pair of shallow under-barrel lumps that engage with the receiver floor to more easily perform similar strength-enhancing support.”
Rizzini Competition 16
Few companies in the world make a scaled 16-gauge shotgun, instead they build a monobloc that accepts 16-bore barrels but fits a 12-gauge receiver. But Rizzini is not like most companies. The Italian manufacturer takes pride in supplying fantastic 16-gauge guns and has now developed a clay model for the UK market – the Competition 16.
It boasts fantastic wood, shaped into a Monte Carlo stock for a sweet-shooting experience that Richard Atkins couldn’t get enough of: “Until you actually behold this gun and then take it in your hands, it’s not possible to do justice in words to the difference this makes. Once you handle it, that certain something becomes far more obvious: lighter in weight and sleek of form.”
This is a late entry to break into the best guns of the year, only being introduced at the Midland Game Fair and reviewed last month, but it would have been a crime for the Competition 16 to go unnoticed in the top 10.
The German manufacturer made the biggest splash at the 2016 British Shooting Show when it introduced the new F16 concept. Blaser has spent a long time refining, perfecting and promoting the F3 shotgun, which has become a fan favourite in the competition shooting arena, but the top brass realised the importance of making a good quality gun in a more affordable price bracket.
The F16 has less flare and boasts a more basic trigger, but the fantastic barrel making the company is renowned for is still evident, and the sleek lines make it an attractive option in a 30in Sporter. We deemed this model important enough to put it in the hands of two reviewers at different points in the year, as Vic Harker is able to look at the importance of the gun in the grand scheme of the clay shooting industry, and Richard Atkins likes to take a close, detailed look at how the gun works.
Vic said: “I wholeheartedly applaud what the Blaser F16 represents: a truly modern volume production gun you can alter to your own requirements.”
And Richard spoke of the change in trigger format: “Two hammers pivot on hinge pins in the trigger plate: they are powered by strong, upward acting coil springs and held by cleverly positioned sears. This gives a powerful, short throw for fast lock times, and the sear engagement is easily reached so it can easily be meticulously adjusted.”
At game fairs and shows throughout the year, the Blaser stands were constantly busy with shooters checking out the new gun, and with Blaser’s UK operations now moved into a new premises, it should be easier and quicker to get hold of the F16.
Caesar Guerini Ellipse Evo Ascent
One of the newest shotgun manufacturers to make a dent in the British market, Caesar Guerini, has made its mark by offering extremely attractive guns that are well built at reasonable prices. Being Italian, there is already a curiosity and a wealth of national gunmaking knowledge behind the brand, and it has been on show in its production guns since 2002. The Ellipse range is built on a round-bodied action, which aids smooth movement and quick target acquisition, while also offering a truly unique look in a competition shotgun. The EVO Ascent Trap is a sub-model within this series that offers a different specialist gun for shooters within a range of specific disciplines.
While Vic Harker admired the attractive qualities of the gun last summer, he also said: “Caesar Guerini demonstrates an understanding of ergonomics that even some of the longest established target gunmakers can’t match. This would suggest, cosmetics aside, that the company has either knowledgeable shooters working for them, or advisers outside of the company who really know their stuff.”
In many ways, the Italian shotgun market has been forced into making better-quality guns with more useful features at a lower price band because of the decent guns coming out of Turkey at amazingly low prices. In this vein, Bettinsoli has been one of the Italian gunmakers responding in kind with elements that you would normally find on higher-priced guns, and companies like RA Sport and others are also offering similar ideas.
Previously, Bettinsoli introduced the X-8, a gun with a Sporter guise that boasted an adjustable stock and a higher rib, but nobody was quite sure if it was ideal for Trap or not. The X-Trail is more clearly a crossover-Sporter gun, and a good one at that, as Richard said at the time: “If you are looking for an affordable over-and-under for some not too serious clay shooting then the X-trail should be on your shortlist. It is heavy enough to absorb recoil from most 28-gram target loads while not so heavy as to preclude carrying good distances.”
Bettinsoli has long been respected in the world of entry-level shotguns, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Italian company is a leader when it comes to expanding and improving its range.
Browning B725 ProTrap
Since launching the B725 a few years ago, Browning has shown an ability to modernise after rebuilding the famed B25 action to be shallower, lighter and more movable, which suits the types of clays thrown today by the most popular course setters. The new barrel and action profiles have made the gun more attractive, and Trap shooters are now appreciating the benefits of this new look in shooting. Browning importers admitted that fans of disciplines like DTL hadn’t been catered to for a while when it introduced the B725 ProTrap High Rib and the company further reached out to shooters of other Trap disciplines by offering the standard rib version that we tested in the October edition.
Richard Atkins said of the B725 ProTrap: “This is a comprehensive and professional package. The fully adjustable comb fitted to the excellent stock permits a wide degree of gun fitting refinement to be easily achieved. With all its adjustments and features, this really is the nearest you can get to a bespoke-made gun”
Beretta DT11 X-Trap
Not all gunmakers have the capacity to build discipline-specific models for a limited audience. Beretta, however, is one company that creates a high number of firearms for a wide array of situations and uses. Italy also loves the Olympic disciplines. And the DT11 X Trap is built especially for Double Trap shooters.
The B-Fast balancing system means you can put the weight where want to suit your shooting style and body type. The B-Fast adjustable high rib is extraordinary and will give you a great view of the targets, and the adjustable stock makes the whole thing easier to fit your face and shoulder.
Beretta introduced the DT11 ACS (All Competition Shotgun) in 2015, a gun that was intended to cross disciplines, and while the X Trap clearly has a more limited scope, it can be used for more than just Double Trap, as Vic Harker explained early last year: “In the UK I am quite certain the DT11 X will also be the choice of some DTL shooters and why not? At Ian Coley’s Shooting Ground I broke targets as convincingly as I would with my own flat-rib gun, maybe even better.”
A gun that offers such a high head position won’t be for everybody, but Trap shooters, especially in the domestic fields and in Double Trap, are enjoying what this type of gun offers, and few companies are better at making quality guns on a mass scale than the oldest firearms manufacturer in the world.